Sunday, 30 March 2014

Matt Stevens - Lucid

Anyone who is used to the music of Matt Stevens, with his looping acoustic guitar and interesting time signatures may find his latest offering - Lucid - a bit of a shock to the system. The strange rhythms are still present, but this is, in places, a much bolder, louder, heavier collection of tunes than hitherto. In fact at times it put me more in mind of his work with The Fierce and the Dead than his previous solo work (not that that's a bad thing).

The album opener, 'Oxymoron', hits you straight between the eyes with its staccato beats and 15/8 time, and this continues with the pattern of the 13/8 'Flow' - this is not music to dance to (easily) but music to tantalise and excite nonetheless. That feeling continues with 'Unsettled', which certainly can do that with its 22-beat structure. 'The Other Side' (track 4) is more like the early Stevens: a quieter and more relaxing acoustic tune, which has a joyous edge to it in places. 'The Ascent' reminded me of King Crimson's 80s material and has some stirring electric guitar runs within it. The next track 'Coulrophobia' is an ethereal, slightly eerie combination of guitars & vibes that gives the feel of some kind of dysfunctional musical box, which kind of makes sense when you discover (as I did) that the title refers to a fear of clowns. The title track 'Lucid' and its follower 'KEA' build layers of sound upon one another in typical Stevens manner, one with electric instruments, the other acoustically.

Thus far the tunes have all clocked in at 3:31 or under, but now we are treated to two fuller pieces. 'Street and Circus', at just under 5 minutes, has a warm 12-string ambiance to it that picks up in intensity towards the end as the drums kick in and makes use of the time it has to develop nicely. Then we have the epic - nearly 12 minutes of 'The Bridge', which was many people's introduction to the album as it was the first track released. This is a tune with a heavy, driving beat to begin with, which fades out to something almost industrial before a quiet acoustic interlude draws you in. The initial theme returns, leading into bass and drums keeping a rhythm going behind the whoosh of white noise before the final flourish of screaming electric guitars brings up to a conclusion. The final cut, 'A Boy', sort of waltzes through to the end of the album, and is almost a song without words in its lyricism.

This is another wonderful and varied selection from Matt, and I would urge you all, if you haven't done so, to give it a serious listening-to. You will not be disappointed.